North American Mammals: Cougars Get New "Whiskers"

by AMNH on

On Exhibit posts

The dioramas in the Hall of North American Mammals have always been splendid, but after more than a year of painstaking restoration, they look better than ever. A multi-video series documents their renovation.

After a yearlong process of restoration, the spectacular dioramas in the Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals are back to doing what they were always meant to do: transporting visitors to beautiful vistas as far away as Yellowstone or Alaska.

The cougar (or mountain lion) diorama depicts another spectacular site, the Grand Canyon, which was declared a national monument in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt. 

Museum diorama depicting two mountain lions in the Grand Canyon, one lying down and one sitting up facing out onto a high view of the canyon below.
A pair of cougars rests in the Arizona shade in this diorama in the Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals.
© AMNH/C. Chesek

Originally created back in 1941, the two taxidermy cats in the scene were missing an essential feature, noted Ross D. E. MacPhee, the curator in charge of the restoration of the hall. In fact, they had lost their whiskers—called vibrissae—that may help cats navigate and track prey into small spaces. So conservators and taxidermists looked long and hard for a replacement material.

Before you watch the video, can you guess what material they chose?